PSAT date change to January

November 30, 2020


Photo Courtesy of Avery Wang

A student studies independently for school during the age of COVID-19.

The 2020-2021 PSAT date is set for Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. According to the College Board, this new test day administration will still include eligibility for programs administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. However, the ongoing COVID-19 situation could affect those plans.

“[The College Board’s] top priority is the health and safety of students and educators. PSAT/NMSQT administrations are managed by the school and each school is required to follow local public health guidelines,” Jerome White, Director of Media Relations & External Communications at The College Board, said over email. “[The College Board has] also adapted testing policies and processes this year to provide flexibility for schools to adhere to social distancing and other safety guidelines while administering the exams.”

“A concrete decision has not been made yet regarding the test. I know the goal is to have the PSAT on January 26 as of now,” College and Career Coordinator Mary Hull said via phone call. “If the COVID situation spins out control, I feel strongly that changes will be made to help the test takers out.

The test is normally conducted between October and November. Montgomery County pays the test fee for sophomores, and juniors have to provide their own payment.

The PSAT is not just a trial run for the SAT—it also serves as an opportunity for high scorers to become National Merit finalists and win scholarship money. On Sept. 9, 28 RM students were announced as National Merit Semifinalists, according to mymcmedia. They will continue competing nationally for scholarships granted in the Spring if the Covid cases do not fluctuate. The National Merit Office will make adjustments to their program if necessary.

“I don’t like the new date change – I wanted to get the PSAT out of the way at the beginning of the year to make more time for AP test studies. But I understand the reason behind it. It’s hard to administer the standardized tests while still implementing COVID precautions,” junior Eileen Chen said via Zoom.

PSAT takers will be required to abide by strict public health regulations established by the College Board. These regulations entail wearing a mask at all times within the testing vicinity, sitting at least six feet apart from others, and staying at home if exposed to COVID-19. The College Board is currently monitoring the situation and will post any changes, cancellations of tests, and decisions on their website.

“I am not excited to wear a mask during the test, but I am glad the test was postponed since I do not feel prepared right now. I also agree with the decision to move the test date to later; maybe the situation will be better by then and we’ll have a vaccine,” sophomore Arianna Jahangir said via phone call.

There is an increasing number of test-optional colleges. Over 1600 colleges and universities are test optional this year, including all eight Ivy League colleges. In the summer of 2020, the University of Maryland announced their decision to make standardized testing optional for the spring and fall 2021 freshman and transfer application processes.

“I have never been a fan of the College Board and their tests. I do not believe the SAT or ACT measures the capabilities a student has, yet I see so many students and their parents stressing over this one day test that really does not have much significance in the end,” Hull said. “I tell my students this year is a lucky one, and they should take advantage of test optional schools if their scores aren’t so good.” 

Due to the postponed test date, the College Board highly recommends that students practice at Khan Academy. Khan Academy allows students to gauge their testing strengths and weaknesses through the questions provided.


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